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Updated: Human Resources director faces ethics complaint

Monday, February 11, 2019 by Jo Clifton

Joya Hayes, director of the city’s Human Resources Department, misused city resources and abused her position by directing staffers to care for her child while Hayes attended meetings, according to a complaint filed by the Office of the City Auditor.

The allegation came to light last week when the Ethics Review Commission posted its agenda for this week’s meeting. The complaint against Hayes is one of three the commission is scheduled to discuss.

The complaint was filed by Brian Molloy, chief of investigations for the auditor’s office. The complaint states that the city auditor’s office “received multiple allegations of abuse and waste” against Hayes related to employees taking care of her child.

According to the report, auditors “determined that Hayes solicited and accepted favors from employees in various city departments … Specifically, we determined that two HRD employees transported (redacted) to or from daycare and looked after (redacted) while Hayes worked. This occurred on multiple occasions and one of those employees reports directly to Hayes. The reporting relationship is significant because Hayes is responsible for their performance appraisal and compensation. Additionally we determined that at least two employees from the city manager’s office watched Hayes’s (redacted) while she attended meetings at City Hall. Hayes admitted to some of these actions in an interview with our office.”

Auditors stated that they encountered “multiple employees who expressed a fear of retaliation,” while they were investigating the matter. They also said some employees appeared reluctant to provide information, which “may have limited our ability to fully identify all potential violations.”

On one occasion, Hayes asked one of her employees to take the child to daycare so that Hayes could catch a flight. Hayes told investigators that on at least four occasions the employee had taken the child to daycare, to the employee’s home or to the home of one of Hayes’ relatives.

Hayes told the Austin American-Statesman, “The findings of this report establish an unrealistic expectation that prevents any reasonable parent from serving in executive level positions that require work before and after normal business hours, 7 days a week, year-round. Some of the information included in the report is also false and unsubstantiated.”

Update: Hayes told the Austin Monitor she adopted her son through the foster care system in 2015 and when first approached to take the HR director job she resisted because she knew she would be spending a lot of time with the child. However, City Manager Marc Ott prevailed upon her to take the job anyway because two other employees who might be qualified were retiring.

She said investigators only interviewed nine HR employees, “and of the nine, three have been disciplined by me.” She also said that she had “written up” the employee who filed the original complaint just two weeks before the complaint was filed.

Hayes added the following in an email, “The City has established a mother friendly work environment that supports new mothers and working parents, including parents adopting from foster care. There are no policies that prevent working parents from the occasional need to bring their children to work as long as the children do not create a safety risk to themselves or others. The Audit report fails to accurately report testimony that confirmed that children are commonly in the workplace during late night City Council meetings and at community meetings; they are the children of executive employees, non-executive employees, and elected officials.”

Hayes said several of her employees will be at the meeting Wednesday night to testify on her behalf.

Photo by John Flynn.

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